Hemex’s Russell Brice Clarifies Previous Messages, Not Retiring After All


Not Retiring After All

I’m getting ready to step off the grid for a few days, but I thought this information was worth sharing before I set out for the backcountry. A few weeks back I shared the news that it appeared that Russell Brice was retiring from mountain guiding.

This nugget of information came from a dispatch that Brice made when leaving K2 Base Camp after an unsuccessful expedition to K2. Poor weather prevented the Himex team from launching a real summit bid, and Russell made the choice to play it safe and head for home, only to have another team put 12 climbers on the summit shortly there after.

Clearly at that point of the season, Brice was feeling frustrated and was questioning his own judgement calls, which have always been about keeping his clients safe. This led him to make the statement that it may be time to “hang up” his boots, which led those of us who follow the mountaineering scene closely to jump to the conclusion that he was stepping away from the guiding industry and retiring after 40+ years in climbing.


Now that the dust has cleared and a bit of time has passed, it is easier to find some perspective. A few days back, Brice sent another dispatch sharing the news that he had returned to London after a challenging trek out from K2. In that dispatch he addressed the news of his “retirement,” and in the immortal words of Mark Twain, news of his demise are greatly exaggerated. In that note Russell had this to say:

“And of course I need to discuss my flippant comment that I would hang up my boots. Thanks for all of you who have sent supporting messages, they are all appreciated. It is nice to know that people appreciate my work, but you do not have to live in a tent, wake up early every morning, make life dependent decisions, then work a full day, and be on call 24/7 for half a year at a time, living on basic food, in a different culture which is often rather vague with objectives but full of bureaucracy. So far this year I have been at home for less than 16 days, I have spent over 100 nights in a tent, have done more than 25 international flights and effectively have had no days off from work. I used to be 25 once, and enjoyed this life, but now I am 65 and as much as one may want, the body just does not perform the same, and trying to keep up with those who are half my age is challenging and fun, but it takes its toll. 

I did not intend to imply that I was leaving the industry – it is my way of life, maybe I intended to suggest that I might be spending less time at BC than I have in the past. There is plenty of exciting news to come with further development of Himex and our operations, and I need to spend more time in a real office rather than a tent office on the side of a mountain. Maybe the view will not be so great, but at least the air conditioning and temperature control might work a bit more reliably.”

 So there we have it. Russell is not going away, just looking to shift his focus and work/life balance a bit, something we can all probably appreciate. It is good to know that he will still be leading Himex and organizing expeditions. It is impossible to overstate just how important his experience and logistical talents are on a big mountain like Everest, and given enough time, I believe he’ll figure out how to make things work on K2 as well. I’m glad to see he’ll still be a part of the guiding community. The industry still needs him. 

Kraig Becker